Film Review: Draft Day

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary. Directed by Ivan Reitman.

Before I begin a review of a film based on the NFL, I need to admit that I know very little about the game. I’m an Australian and people here only really switch on to the sport for the Super Bowl (and we don’t even get the multi-million dollar ads here). So hitting play on Draft Day, a fictional account of the annual NFL Draft, I had a little catching up to do.

Thankfully, director Ivan Reitman has made a film that both sports fans and the uninitiated can both enjoy. The action moves beyond the ins and outs of the draft and becomes a tension-building high-stakes race against the clock that anyone can get sucked in by.

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) is the general manager for the Cleveland Browns, an NFL team, who through some wheeling and dealing, lands the privileged position of the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The favourite player up for grabs is Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), a cocky quarterback from the University of Wisconsin. This is all you really need to know about the mechanics of the plot, as Sonny bargains and trades and pulls all kinds of tricks to get his team in the best position for the year ahead.

On one level, the Draft Day is all about the trades and stats, but on another it’s about relationships. Sonny is in a secret (but known) relationship with co-worker Ali (Garner); and he is under fire for his seemingly reckless choices from the other Browns management, including coach Vince Penn (a very arms-folded-tightly Leary). Sonny needs to prove that he has the best for the team in mind as the clock ticks on.

Reitman has worked hard to stylise Draft Day to a tee, but the tricks are a little overdone. Split screens with crossover are done to death, as is the relentless ticking clock. I found establishing shots of cities and titles of teams quite helpful, with my limited knowledge of the NFL. Costner is convincing in the lead role and Garner is excellent in support.

Although Sonny is aggressive in getting what he wants, he’s also after something different to the status quo. Callahan is the number one draft pick and seems like a shoe-in for the Browns, but Sonny refuses to pick him if his character isn’t up to scratch. It’s fascinating that an amazing player might not be all that valuable if he is lacking social skills, or isn’t a team player.

This reminded me of what the Bible says matters most to God about us. He isn’t after the physically strong, the rich or the impressive. What matters most is character. Consider what The Lord said to Samuel when he had to choose one of Jesse’s sons to become King over Israel in 1 Samuel 16:7:

‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but The Lord looks at the heart.’

God looks at our hearts. Our attitudes. Our desires. And our obedience to him. Of course David wasn’t perfect, but he pointed towards the greater king to come – Jesus. Jesus’ character was that of a servant who did his Father’s will. He laid down his life for you and I – his enemies! What an amazing heart he has for us. And for those who trust in Jesus, when God looks at our hearts he sees hearts that have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

We are now on God’s team. We’re called to follow our Lord Jesus with our whole hearts and our whole lives and be people of integrity.

If you’re into sports, nail-biting tension or just a good story, then Draft Day is worth renting out. I’m giving it three-and-a-half out of five stars.

Draft Day is available now on home media.

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